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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Moby Dick (1956)

In 19th century New England, a wandering adventurer (Richard Basehart) signs on to the crew of the Pequod, a whaling ship. Its Captain (Gregory Peck) is near crazy to avenge himself on the whale called Moby Dick whose previous encounter with the whale cost him a leg. This film adaptation of the classic Herman Melville novel (some call it the Great American novel) is often unfairly maligned. The screenplay by Ray Bradbury (FAHRENHEIT 451) with an assist from the director John Huston is very good and faithful to Melville's book. No, it's not Melville's MOBY DICK, that would be a 4 hour plus movie but Huston (along with his cinematographer Oswald Morris) brings not only a remarkable visual style to the film, the Technicolor print has been desaturated, but a tight directorial hand that keeps the focus on its firm path. The bone of contention in the negativity toward the film has always been the casting of Peck as Ahab. Personally, I think he does a very good job and I think posterity bears me out. In 1956, Peck was one of the most popular movie stars in Hollywood but noted for his nicety in films like ROMAN HOLIDAY and GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT. So, he brought a lot of pre-conceived baggage to the part. Today, someone unfamiliar with Peck doesn't have that baggage to contend with and can judge him accordingly and more and more contemporary reviews have been favorable. An excellent underscore by Philip Sainton. With Leo Genn, James Robertson Justice, Harry Andrews, Royal Dano and Orson Welles as Father Mapple.

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